Permitting envy in Islam

Ibn Mas’ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Envy is permitted only in two cases: A man whom Allah gives wealth, and he disposes of it rightfully, and a man to whom Allah gives knowledge which he applies and teaches it.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Commentary

Islam has prohibited envy (Hasd). It is the most destructive emotion or feeling a person can have towards its fellow human beings. In this state a person wishes for the deprivation of a blessing, talent, or merit possessed by another person. Envy causes the person to think and wish evil happenings for others and sometimes it may also lead to inflict physical damage. Envy leads to other contemptible sins such as backbiting, spreading rumors and lying all of which are strictly forbidden by Allah and his Prophet (saw). The Prophet (saw) warned against envy by comparing it to fire that completely burns the wood. He (saw) said: “Beware of jealousy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.” [Abu Dawood]. As said Islam ethical teachings forbid envy because of its harmful spiritual, moral and social effects but there are conditions under which it is permissible such as the one mentioned in the hadith above. The hadith uses the word Ghibtah (envy that is free from malice) which means neither loving the loss of a blessing/gift/quality graced by Allah nor hating for it to remain with the person, but desiring to be blessed just like the same. Knowledge and wealth are two things that every person in the world wishes to possess them. Knowledge of Quran and hadith is beneficial for man and it should be thought to others as our Prophet Muhammad (saw) did and wealth should be acquired by halal means and be spent in the rightful ways and in the way of Allah. So if someone sees others possessing them then he can get jealous easily because both the acts bring the person closer to Allah and acquire his grace. Hence getting jealous from others due to their  knowledge and wealth is permissible and one can ask Allah to give him the same blessings which he could spend in His way.

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